AVOID HYPOCRISY IN BOLDLY CONFESSING CHIRST IN THE FACE OF PERESECTION IN LIGHT OF FUTURE JUDGMENT
The pressure is being ramped up not only against Christ but also against His disciples. Jesus takes this opportunity to build up the courage and boldness of the disciples so that they will maintain their testimony and life of integrity and not fall into the trap of hypocrisy. They need to fear God rather than man and be assured of His care for them. The Holy Spirit will strengthen them and give them the ability to respond when the threat of physical danger presents itself. Confessing Christ will be the key point of divide on the Day of Judgment.
(:1a) PRELUDE – SETTING
A. Hostility Brewing
“Under these circumstances,”
Direct connection to previous section in chapter 11 — the extreme hostility that had developed after Jesus had so openly exposed the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders – specifically the Pharisees and scribes (lawyers)
B. Crowd Milling About
“after so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together
that they were stepping on one another,”
MacArthur: As we come to chapter 12, the people are becoming fixed in their resentment and resistance and animosity and rejection of Jesus. And, in fact, the…the character of the crowd has changed. In the early years of His ministry they were really interested, they were peaked, they were curious, they were hungry, they were excited, they were enthusiastic, they were coming off the ministry of John the Baptist, they were eager for the kingdom, they were eager to find out if He was the Messiah. They were stunned and shocked by the amazing power that He exhibited in all of His thousands of miracles which He did day by day. He was very attractive to them. They were thinking maybe He could be the Messiah. But as the months went on, that began to change. And by the time we come into chapter 12, most of the crowd has sided with the Pharisees and the Sadducees and His enemies. Most of the crowd is rooted and dug in and entrenched in their false religion and they see Jesus now as the enemy. And so, from here on out there’s a tone in Jesus’ ministry of warning and judgment that has escalated. For most, the decision has been made and Jesus now warns them of the coming judgment, not so much the promises of coming blessing, although they will come, but the warnings of judgment that fall on those who reject Him.
Deffinbaugh: I think that this story helps us to understand how the disciples must have felt as they realized that they were encircled by a crowd of thousands, and not, it would seem, a very friendly crowd. Luke tells us that this large crowd was trampling on one another. Crowds sometimes tend to turn to a hostile group. We know of riots which have broken out at various sports events, where many were hurt. This unruly crowd must have given the disciples a rather uncomfortable feeling. Jesus had just attacked the religious leaders, the leaders whom they regarded as holy, the leaders they had respected. Was the crowd threatening to become hostile?
C. Disciples Singled Out
“He began saying to His disciples first of all,”
Geldenhuys: While the Pharisees and scribes were busy outside the house of the Pharisee (xi. 37) asking Jesus all kinds of catch-questions, an exceptionally great multitude gathered there in much excitement. A spirit of hostility to Jesus probably prevailed among the major portion of the multitude owing to the influence of the enraged Pharisees and scribes. As a result, the Saviour in the long connected oration of verses 1-59 addresses Himself mostly to His disciples, although in the hearing of the multitude.
J. Ligon Duncan: What in the world was so important to Jesus that He didn’t address that vast multitude but first turned to His disciples and said something?
I. (:1B-3) LIVE A LIFE OF INTEGRITY RATHER THAN HYPOCRISY
A. (:1b) Warning Against Hypocrisy
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
Morris: The metaphor would have been more obvious then than now, for people tended to make their own bread and everyone would be familiar with the way a little yeast slowly transforms a large lump of dough. Leaven speaks of a penetration that is slow, insidious and constant. In this case the leaven is hypocrisy. The practice of saying one thing and doing another eats at the moral life like a canker.
Steven Cole: The Greek word for hypocrisy referred to a mask used in acting. It means to lead people to believe that you are something you are not. The hypocrite’s emphasis is on how others see him, not on how God sees him. Thus his focus is on the outward person, not on the heart. Jesus calls it leaven or yeast because it is subtle and insidious. Just as a small pinch of yeast will spread until it puffs up a large lump of dough, so a small amount of hypocrisy tolerated in our lives will spread until it contaminates us totally.
Bruce Hurt: The idea is to pretend, to act as something one is not and so to act deceitfully, pretending to manifest traits like piety and love. It means to create a public impression that is at odds with one’s real purposes or motivations, and thus is characterized by play-acting, pretense or outward show. It means to give an impression of having certain purposes or motivations, while in reality having quite different ones. The first century Pharisees had mastered the art of “play acting,” and took the practice of hypocrisy to a new level! Sadly, their “offspring” still exist in the Church and among those who profess to be believers in Jesus Christ
B. (:2-3) Exposure of Hypocrisy on Judgment Day
1. (:2) Open Revelation of Everything Hidden
“But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed,
and hidden that will not be known.”
2. (:3) Open Proclamation of Everything Spoken
“Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light,
and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”
Donald Miller: reminder that at the Day of Judgment all the secrets of the heart will be publicly placarded before “the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (vss. 2-3; Heb. 4:13).
Anyabwile: One day our lives will be shown on the big screen of God’s judgment. It will be a split screen. On one side will be the life we showed the world. On the other side will be the life we tried to hide. If they’re the same, then we have integrity. We are true disciples – true to God, true to self, and true to others. But if the two screens show different pictures, then we will be condemned as hypocrites. It will be shouted form the rooftop of heaven.
Darrell L. Bock: This figure of speech describes our most private practices. This is a classic reversal theme: the most private of acts and utterances become the most public. It is this exposure that makes hypocrisy useless in the long run and the heroic deed done in private an object of admiration eventually. The contrasts are strong: darkness versus light and private whispering versus public preaching.
II. (:4-5) FEAR THE ULTIMATE JUDGE RATHER THAN MEN WHO CAN ONLY HARM YOU PHYSICALLY
A. (:4) Men Have Limited Potential to Harm You In This Life
“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body,
and after that have no more that they can do.”
B. (:5) God Has Ultimate Ability to Cast Into Hell Forever
“But I will warn you whom to fear:
fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell;
yes, I tell you, fear Him!”
Morris: We much prefer to stress the love of God. But, while there is a sense in which perfect love casts out fear (1 Jn. 4:18), there is another in which fear is quite compatible with love. This kind of fear is continually regarded in the Bible as a necessary ingredient in right living. It is an attitude compounded of a recognition of the greatness and the righteousness of God on the one hand and our readiness to sin on the other. Fear of this kind guards against presumption and must find its place in a right faith.
III. (:6-7) DO NOT FEAR MEN BECAUSE GOD CARES FOR YOU
A. (:6) God Cares for the Least Significant
“Are not five sparrows sold for two cents?
And yet not one of them is forgotten before God.”
B. (:7a) God Knows All About You
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
William Barclay: God’s care is the most detailed of all. To God we are never lost in the crowd. Matthew says, “Are not two sparrows sold for 1/4 pence ?” (Matthew 10:29.) Here Luke says, “Are not five sparrows sold for 1/2 pence ?” If you were prepared to spend 1/2 pence you got not four, but five sparrows. One was flung into the bargain as having no value at all. Not even the sparrow on which men set not a 1/4 pence value is forgotten before God. The very hairs of our head are numbered. It has been computed that a blonde person has about 145,000 hairs; a dark-haired person, 120,000; and a person with red hair, 90,000! The Jews were so impressed with the individual care of God that they said that every blade of grass had its guardian angel. None of us needs to fear for each can say, “God cares for me.”
C. (:7b) God Values You
“Do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Morris: God takes notice of the commonest and cheapest of birds. Much more, then, will He be concerned for men.
MacArthur: 3 Reasons to Fear God:
– Fear God because He will uncover what is hidden
– He will punish the hypocrites in hell forever
– He knows everything.
IV. (:8-12) DO NOT FEAR MEN BUT TESTIFY BOLDLY IN TIMES OF PERSECUTION
A. (:8-9) Contrast Between Confessing and Denying Christ
1. (:8) Confessing Christ
“And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men,
the Son of Man shall confess him also before the angels of God;”
Steven Cole: To confess Christ means to proclaim to others the fact that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord and that our salvation is all from Him and not at all from us. Other Scriptures show that we do this initially through baptism, where we publicly confess that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; examples in Acts, e.g., 16:33). Then, through both our lives and our words, we openly acknowledge that we are followers of Jesus Christ and that He has saved us by His grace, apart from anything we have done. If Jesus Christ has truly saved you, then you will be a different person. You will be growing in righteousness, love, and truth. You will judge and confess your sins. When opportunities come up to tell others of the great love and mercy of the Savior, you will do it because of your gratitude to Him for saving you.
MacArthur: So what you’re doing when you confess Jesus as Lord is you’re confessing the truth that He is in fact the absolute and utter sovereign of the universe and has every right to be the sovereign over your life, and particularly because you are so desperately hopeless in running it yourself. And left to yourself, you’ll run your life right into hell. “Lord” means sovereign ruler.
2. (:9) Denying Christ
“but he who denies Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.”
Geldenhuys: They must be specially on their guard against the hypocrisy of denying Jesus in word or deed, because those who deny Him, by refusing to acknowledge that He is the Messiah and that they are His followers, will at the Final Judgment also be denied by Him, through His disowning of any bond of true communion between them and Him.
Deffinbaugh: Why would our Lord teach His disciples not to be hypocritical by referring to the requirements God has for man’s salvation? Very simply. How can the disciples call upon men to publicly profess their faith in Christ for salvation if they are, at the same time, trying to conceal their own faith? In times of persecution, such as the early days of the church, a decision to trust in Christ was most unpopular, and could lead to persecution by some and rejection by one’s family. The disciples must not waver in their boldness, for they must set and example for those who would come to faith.
B. (:10) Contrast Between Blaspheming Against Christ vs. Blaspheming Against the Holy Spirit
“And everyone who will speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him.”
Donald Miller: The unforgiveable blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is somehow related to ascribing Jesus’ works to demonic powers (11:15; Matt. 12:24-32). This is more than a personal affront. It is a state of spiritual stupor which confuses the Spirit of God with the Devil.
MacArthur: Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with rejecting your supposed claim to a…tongues as a gift from the Spirit, or a word from the Lord, or a vision or a prophecy. That’s another issue all together. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is rejecting His revelation as to the truth of Jesus Christ. And if you reject the revelation the Spirit has given us, if you reject the Scripture, if you reject the external record of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and there were some people who not only had heard the teaching but had seen Christ and seen the miracles both done by Christ and the apostles, if you reject that revelation of the Spirit to the truth of Christ and the gospel, you can’t be saved. You’ve just insulted or blasphemed the Holy Spirit. That’s not possible to be forgiven if it’s a final rejection of that truth. You can never be saved; no one can ever be saved who doesn’t believe the testimony of the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ, right? You can’t be saved unless you believe the truth about Christ. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” As long as you reject the testimony of the Spirit to Jesus Christ, you are unforgivable.
C. (:11-12) Contrast Between Anxiety vs. Confidence When Facing Persecution
“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not become anxious about how or what you should speak in your defense, or what you should say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”